In recent weeks, at least two politicians have made reference to the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, suggesting this was a positive action.
The reference was made in order to bolster present-day calls to exclude another class of people, Muslims, from American soil. We who live on Bainbridge Island must speak up, as it was on our Island that the exclusion of islanders of Japanese ancestry — two-thirds of them United States citizens — began. Here, from a dock on Eagle Harbor, Island families were loaded onto boats for the first leg in their journey to imprisonment. This shameful event is memorialized at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial at that same spot on Eagle Harbor. We have seared this occasion in our consciences, and have not forgotten this country’s misguided decision to discriminate against people who merely shared the face of one of our enemy nations during World War II.
We must remind our nation that the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese American citizens and resident aliens remains a stain on the honor of our nation, one that has been recognized by every US president since President Jimmy Carter, followed with official apologies and modest reparations to living survivors. We urge every citizen to remember this tragic event when our nation succumbed to fear, racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a shameful lack of political leadership*, and say, “Nidoto Nai Yoni.” — Let it not happen again.
*A paraphrase of the unanimous findings of an exhaustive three-year investigation by a bipartisan commission started under President Carter and completed under President Reagan.